Partnership with Helderberg Sunrise Rotary Club
The Helderberg Sunrise Rotary club has started a project which aims at improving mathematics education and learning at two schools in Macassar in the Western Cape. They have decided to use the Number Sense workbooks as part of their project. We are also helping them with the research of whether their project is meeting their goals. Here is an article that recently appeared in their newsletter:
You will all, no doubt, be aware of the pilot Numeracy project we started this year at Marvin Park Primary School and Oklahoma Primary School in Macassar. The pilot is paid for by generous donations from overseas sponsors, notably the Carl Duisberg Foundation. The initiative to support these two schools through the provision of alternative learning materials arose from the dire need to increase the mathematics results in schools in South Africa. During his tenure of president of our club Clive Reed was responsible for identifying and initiating the Numeracy project. HSRC started a workgroup consisting of Issy Gaude, Tania Wait, Dave Wilson, Jean Millar, and Chris van der Leij which resulted in the current pilot. The pilot is based on training maths teachers to teach Primary School students mathematics in a more holistic and natural way. The books being used are part of the Number Sense series of workbooks.
In this month’s business meeting we had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Aarnout Brombacher (of Brombacher and Associates). The presentation offered some fascinating insights into the difference between the traditional method of teaching children to memorise rules and formulas versus the method of providing the children with a feeling for numbers and their relationships with a view to develop problem solving skills rather than doing sums. Aarnout demonstrated how easy it is to be tricked into thinking that children actually understand what they are doing just because they come up with the correct answer. Aarnout Brombacher’s approach is based on providing the children with a practical feeling for numbers (in other words giving them number sense) before we deal with abstract mathematics like additions, subtractions, multiplications, divisions, fractions, and so on. Aarnout’s contention, therefore, is that we should focus on training teachers to teach mathematics before we expose the children to them.
One of the most eye-opening insights offered to us is the fact that the teachers that excel at maths are usually teaching maths to the highest grades whereas they should in fact be teaching the lower grades to ensure that the children get the basics right. A most refreshing and thought-provoking idea. At the end of the presentation Aarnout got a well-deserved thank you from Chip Michie and a hearty applause from all Rotarians and guests.
Aarnout Brombacher is the founder and head of Brombacher & Associates, and was the former head of the Mathematics Department at Westerford High School and a Past-President of AMESA. In 1996 he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and read for a Masters degree in Mathematics Education at the University of Georgia in the USA.
Aarnout and the team at Brombacher and Associates are involved in the materials development, teacher training and research in the field of mathematics education. Among other materials, the team has developed the Number Sense Workbook Series, to provide independent written activities for children as they develop a strong sense of number. A strong sense of number is at the heart of being able to do mathematics and central to mathematics in the early years. As part of their teacher training activities the team provide in-class coaching support to early grade teachers in a number of school.
Aarnout has led national surveys of early grade reading and mathematics in more than 10 countries across Africa and the Middle East. In Jordan Aarnout has led a pilot intervention research activity that has shown a great deal of potential in improving early grade mathematics performance. Based on the results of the pilot activity, the Ministry of Education and Government of Jordan have decided to take the activities to scale and to implement the approach in all schools in the Kingdom over the next five years.